The latest animated feature from Netflix, Klaus is made in the traditional hand-drawn 2D animation. Taking into consideration the film’s title, Klaus involves the legendary figure of Santa Claus. This is supposed to be an origin story. It sheds a light upon why the presents go through the chimney, how reindeer came to pull the sleigh, how Santa got his red and white attire and how were the toys made.
The plot is set in motion when Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), the spoiled and lazy son of an unnamed nation’s powerful postmaster general, is whisked away from the stately, militaristic Royal Postal Academy, where he wastes his days napping and sipping espressos while his fellow cadets learn to ride, sort mail, breed carrier pigeons, and transport fragile materials. Jesper’s domineering father assigns him to be the postmaster of the remote northern island-town of Smeerensburg, and gives him an ultimatum: He’ll be disowned unless he processes 6,000 pieces of mail within a year.
As he’s about to give up, Jesper befriends a reclusive toyman Klaus (J.K. Simmons). Klaus is a simple carpenter who makes toys. He is used to living his life alone and in silence. Their unexpected friendship inadvertently helps transform a broken village ravaged by years of internal fighting while starting to thaw Jesper’s own selfish outlook on life.
Klaus is something special and a testament to director Sergio Pablos’ storytelling ability. Pablo’s introduction to the horrid town of Smeerensburg feels like it’s been lifted off a horror or Western movie, with the monochrome visage of its cityscape, the seeming emptiness feels real. Pablos, along with Netflix’s director of character animation James Baxter, bring their years of experience of working together.
As a fan of traditional animation, one may marvel over the look of the film from the start. Netflix has managed to play with both sharp, bold shapes and soft, smooth colours. The characters are designed distinctively. Simmons’ deep, comforting voice is a perfect match for the character, who appears, at first glance, intimidating.
Sweet, funny, intense and beautifully made, Klaus has all the condiments required to stir up a holiday classic. It is a story of finding your worth, while reminding us to embrace our differences and be good to all around us. Netflix is trying to give a simple message through this short and sweet feature- “A true act of goodwill always sparks another.”